Sidor som bilder
PDF
[ocr errors]

the grave, while his voice warned the devoted wretch of woe and death; a death which no innocence can escape, no art elude, no force resist, no antidote prevent. There was an antidote—a juror's oath—but’even that adamantine chain, that bound the integrity of man to the throne of Eternal Justice, is solved and melted in the breath that issues from the informer's mouth—conscience swings from her mooring, and the appalled and affrighted juror, consults his own safety in the surrender of the victim.

RowAN's TRIAL.

GENTLEMEN of THE JURy—When I consider the pe. riod at which this prosecution is brought forward; when I behold the extraordinary safeguard of armed soldiers resorted to, no doubt for the preservation of peace and order: when I catch, as I cannot but do, the throb of public anxiety, which beats from one end to the other of this hall; when I reflect upon what may be the fate of a man of the most beloved personal character, of one of the most respected families of our country; himself the only individual of that family, I may almost say of that country, who can look to that possible fate with unconcern ? Feeling as I do all these impressions, it is in the honest simplicity of my heart I speak, when I say, that I never rose in a court of justice with so much embarrassment, as upon this occasion.

If, gentlemen, I could entertain a hope of finding refuge for the disconcertion of my mind, in the perfect composure of yours; if I could suppose that those awful vicissitudes of human events, which have been stated or alluded to, could leave your judgments undisturbed, and your hearts at ease, I know I should form a most erroneous opinion of your character: I entertain no such chimerical hopes; I form no such unworthy opinions; I expect not that your hearts can be more at ease than my own; I have no right to expect it; but I have a right to call upon you, in the name of your country, in the name of the living God, of whose eternal justice you are now administering that portion which dwells with us on this side of the grave, to discharge your breasts, as far as you are able, of every bias of prejudice or passion; that, if my client be guilty of the offence charged upon him, you may give tranquillity to the public by a firm verdict of conviction; or if he be innocent, by as firm a verdict of acquittal; and that you will do this in defiance of the paltry artifices and senseless clamors that have been resorted to, in order to bring him to his trial with anticipated conviction.

# # # # * * #. *

Gentlemen, the representation of your people is the vital principle of their political existence; without it they are dead, or they live only to servitude ; without it there are two estates acting upon and against the third, instead of acting in co-operation with it; without it, if the people be oppressed by their judges, where is the tribunal to which their judges can be amenable Without it, if they be trampled upon, and plundered by a minister, where is the tribunal to which the offender shall be amenable % Without it, where is the ear to hear, or the heart to feel, or the hand to redress their sufferings 3 Shall they be found, let me ask you, in the accursed bands of imps and minions that bask in their disgrace, and fatten upon their spoils, and flourish upon their ruin But let me not put this to you as a merely speculative question. It is a plain question of fact: rely upon it, physical man is every where the same; it is only the various operation of moral causes that gives variety to the social or individual character and condition. How otherwise happens it, that modern slavery looks quietly at the despot, on the very spot where Leonidas expired The answer is, Sparta has not changed her climate, but she has lost that government, which her liberty could not survive.

I CALL you, therefore, to the plain question of fact. This paper recommends a reform in parliament; I put that question to your consciences; do you think it needs that reform 2 I put it boldly and fairly to you, do you think the people of Ireland are represented as they ought to be 3–Do you hesitate for an answer? If you do, let me remind you, that until the last year three millions of your countrymen have, by the express letter of the law, been excluded from the reality of actual, and even from the phantom of virtual representation. Shall we then be told that this is only the affirmation of a wicked and seditious incendiary 2 If you do not feel the mockery of such a charge, look at your country; in what state do you find it ! Is it in a state of tranquillity and general satisfaction ? These are traces by which good is ever to be distinguished from bad government. With-. out any very minute inquiry or speculative refinement, do you feel that a veneration for the law, a pious and humble attachment to the constitution, form the political morality of your people 3 Do you find that comfort and competency among your people, which are always to be found where a government is mild and moderate; where taxes are imposed by a body who have an interest in treating the poorer orders with compassion, and preventing the weight of taxation from pressing sore upon them : GENTLEMEN, I mean not to impeach the state of your representation; I am not saying that it is defective, or that it ought to be altered or amended, nor is this a place for me to say, whether I think that three millions of the inhabitants of a country, whose whole number is but four, ought to be admitted to any efficient situation in the state. It may be said, and truly, that these are not questions for either of us directly to decide; but you cannot refuse them some passing consideration at least when you remember that on this subject the real question for your decision is, whether the allegation of a defect in your constitution is so utterly unfounded and false, that you can ascribe it only to the malice and perverseness of a wicked mind, and not to the innocent mistake of an ordinary understanding;-whether it may not be mistake; whether it can be only sedition.

And here, gentlemen, I own I cannot but regret, that one of our countrymen should be criminally pursued for asserting to the necessity of a reform, at the very moment when that necessity seems admitted by the parliament itself; that this unhappy reform shall at the same moment be a subject of legislative discussion, and criminal prosecution. Far am I from imputing any sinister design to the virtue or wisdom of our government, but who can avoid feeling the deplorable impression that must be made on the public mind, when the demand for that reform is answered by a criminal information ?

I am the more forcibly impressed by this consideration, when I reflect that when this information was first put upon the file, the subject was transiently mentioned in the House of Commons. Some circumstances retarded the progress of the inquiry there, and the progress of the information was equally retarded here. The first day of this session you all know, that subject was again brought forward in the House of Commons, and as if they had slept together, this prosecution was also revived in the Court of Kings's Bench; and that before a jury, taken from a pannel partly composed of those very members of parliament, who, in the House of Commons, must debate upon this subject as a measure of public advantage, which they are here called upon to consider as a public crime.

This paper, gentlemen, insists upon the necessity of emancipating the Catholics of Ireland, and that is charged as a part of the libel. If they had kept this prosecution impending for another year, how much would remain for a jury to decide upon, I should be at a loss to discover. It seems as if the progress of public reformation was eating away the ground of the prosecution. Since the commencement of the prosecution, this part of the libel has unluckily received the sanction of the Legislature. In that interval, our Catholic brethren have obtained that admission, which it seems it was a libel to propose: in what way to account for this, I am really at a loss. Have any alarms been oc

casioned by the emancipation of our Catholic brethren? Has the bigoted malignity of any individuals been crushed ; Or, has the stability of the government, or has that of the country been awakened? Or, is one million of subjects stronger than three millions 2 Do you think the benefit they received should be poisoned by the stings of vengeance 2 If you think so, you must say to them, “you have demanded your emancipation, and you have got it; but we abhor your persons, we are outraged at your success; and we will stigmatize, by a criminal prosecution, the relief which you have obtained from the voice of your country.” I ask you, gentlemen, do you think, as honest men, anxious for the public tranquillity, conscious that there are wounds not yet completely cicatrized, that you ought to speak this language at this time, to men who are too much disposed to think that in this very emancipation they have been saved from their own Parliament by the hu...'. of their Sovereign : Or, do you wish to prepare them for the revocation of these improvident concessions ? Do you think it wise or humane, at this moment, to insult them, by sticking up in a pillory the man who dared to stand forth their advocate 2 I put it to your oaths, do you think that a blessing of that kind, that a victory obtained by justice over bigotry and oppression, should have a stigma cast upon it by an ignominious sentence upon men bold and honest enough to ropose that measure; to propose the redeeming of reigion from the abuses of the church—the reclaiming of three millions of men from bondage, and giving liberty to all who had a right to demand it—giving, I say, in the so much censured words of this paper, “UNIVERsAL EMANCIPATION " I speak in the spirit of the British Law, which makes liberty commensurate with, and inseparable from, the British soil—which proclaims, even to the stranger and the sojourner, the moment he sets his foot upon British earth, that the ground on which he treads is holy, and consecrated by the genius of UNIVERSAL EMANCIPATION. No matter in what language his doom may have been pronounced; no matter ,

[ocr errors]
« FöregåendeFortsätt »